In university, largely penniless and full of save-the-world, I decided to start giving blood as my first charitable endeavour. Mom had been a nurse at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and I knew it was important. I had no money to give, and not a vast deal of time. But I had blood, and I had an hour. So I started to donate.
Since then access to clinics has not always been consistent. But yesterday morning I traipsed off (if you can traipse in a car through a snowstorm) to give my 33rd pint.
After the donation, one of the kind volunteers asked if I'd like any of their goodies with my peach juice.
"Would you mind if I took a couple of those little Oreo packs for my kids' lunches?" I said.
"You just saved three lives," she said. "You can have whatever you want."
I can't tell you how this made me feel. If you have blood, and an hour, you can feel this way too. I highly recommend it.
Oh, and remember the Mad Hattery late last year? We are now in the same delightful position with socks. Every third pattern until further notice will be a sock pattern. For non-sock fans, we thank you for your patience in advance; if, on the other hand, you like socks (and a few knitters do), this is your moment.
Post-TNNA life settles down and publishers we met with there are starting to make good on their promises to list their work with us (welcome, Gardiner Yarn Works and Cherry Tree Hill!). Other publishers are also popping up with splendid work (hello, imminent Hooked for Life and Flirtations Knitwear!). But these new arrivals continue to throw one of my fatal flaws into sharp relief.
I can't crochet. I mean, I can make a chain, but beyond that I fall down with a thump. Not even Crab Stitch (or Backwards Single Crochet). I'm an accomplished knitter and I've taught finishing and I'm generally pretty competent with a needle or two, but crochet is just like one of those Indo- or Base 10 languages I know I'll never speak. I've always wanted to crochet edgings and inserts for pillowcases. So to start, my mother taught me to make granny squares on at least five different occasions, and I could do it in front of her, but landed up with soggy sorry messes on my lap out of her presence. She died three years ago, so since I'll never be in her physical presence again, I guess that's it. (I know this will bring out the generosity in all of you, and I appreciate it in advance; but I won't have time to learn any crochet for at least three years. Really. It will just have to be in abeyance for a while. I won't have time to learn much knitting-wise, either. I will have to learn to find my rut comfortable.)
Years ago, my main impression of crochet was this kind of thing. We strive not to display any editorial bias, but I confess that this would not be at the top of my to-crochet list. Chancellor Shannon does not feel terribly constricted by diplomacy in this case, and, inspired by that piece, has taken to describing random things in general as "swan-ugly". Nonetheless, I am Voltairian in our mandate to publish it ("I disagree with every word you've said, but I will defend to my death your right to say it"). Some people will find it compelling and beautiful and will want to make it, and we live to serve that, and respect their opinions.
But in the last few months, I've seen some breathtaking crochet from companies and individuals. I love this Wendy jacket, and this amazing Epicurus shawl, and this wonderful beaded Swallow Hill Creations piece, and this lovely Gayle Bunn cardi for Artful Yarns, and this chic little cloche/toque, and I could go on and on. We have more great ones coming up, too.
Fresh young minds, man. There's nothing like them. Just be sure that if you submit a crochet piece for sale, that you write the description. Because I would automatically rate it as intermediate (not being able to tell easy from hard), and would not be able to say much else beyond: "hey, this thing is really good, and you should make a bunch of 'em."
Digression: I like statistics. The US is our most frequent visitor (though we just sold our first pattern to Singapore the other day, and our excitement was unbounded). The state visiting the most is California. For fun, here are its top ten cities in terms of visits from 1 August 2008 until now:
1. San Francisco
2. West Hollywood
4. Los Angeles
6. San Diego
7. Huntington Park
8. Santa Clara
10. Thousand Oaks
I'm sure all these cities are renowned for their groundbreaking good taste (I know San Francisco is), so woot, California!
We were well-nigh bursting at the end, Chancellor Shannon and I.
Karen and Julia Dinner of Village Yarns in Toronto were going round to all their favoured distributors suggesting they list their patterns with us-- much good will come of their endorsements. But it did make for interesting conversations if distributors asked, "... and what do the retailers think about this?" Village Yarns is aiming to go paperless as soon as it's practical, and they see us as an enormous help in this regard. We of course are very happy to be as green as we can be.
The Kertzer booth had a huge poster for this design, proving once again how current and clever Stylecraft is in making their freshest styles available to everyone on the internet.
We also had the great pleasure of meeting Elise Duvekot, who has just published a beautiful book with XRX called Knit One Below, and has patterns on Patternfish published through Knitting Traditions (Beth Brown-Reinsel's imprint).
Talked with Chrissy Gardiner and Donna Arney at Gardiner Yarn Works and it turns out that Chrissy is friends with our beloved designer Karen Alfke (publisher of Unpatterns and 2nd Nature Design), so that was great. Talked with Tahki/Stacy Charles, Dale of Norway, PolarKnit (they're Canadian too!), Fairmount Fibers (Manos!), Mission Falls, the US distributor for Fiesta and Ironstone yarns (7 Dimes Distributing), Berroco, and other iconic folk. Ah, people! This is just talking. And nothing will happen instantly. But the stars appear to be aligning in a most promising way.
Yesterday was perfectly topped off by a good long visit with Clara Parkes of Knitter's Review. She probably doesn't remember, but last June at the Columbus TNNA (Patternfish had been live for about 72 hours), she had been so encouraging and kind that Phil and Shannon and I have talked about it ever since. Clara has a singular kind of wit that is both very dry and very sharp. I wish she would let it off its leash more, and be a regular on some chat show, so everyone could laugh as much as Shannon and I did.
Regular uploading (with some new publishers, too!) will resume very soon.
Finally, I'm happy to report that sleeping with Veronik Avery is fantastic. She's very clean, doesn't kick or snore, and in all ways has excellent bed manners.
So far we've had talks of various lengths with, among others: The Sassy Skein, Style Hounds, Cherry Tree Hill, Knitter's Magazine, Yarn Market News/SOHO Publishing, Bergere de France, Brown Sheep Company, Koigu, Jane Ellison/KFI, Knitwhits, Trendsetter, Prism, and Patons/Spinrite. More meetings scheduled tomorrow with others. We are very very pleased, and excited, at the possibilities. Many people went out of their way to compliment Phil (back home) on designing such a site as this, and acknowledged its hidden complications and challenges; despite appearances, it's not easy, and Phil has done a tremendous job.
Went for supper at The Linkery (thanks for the recommendation, Tony!). Wonderful. If you're ever in San Diego, take a cab and go.
Shannon found a baby onesie in a shop that bore this legend:
In short, it's been one delightful thing after another, and we're not done yet. But it's time to pack before checkout tomorrow. If there's no other blog before our red-eye tomorrow night back to Toronto, there'll be one on Tuesday after our return. Lengthier. It's late (4:20 a.m. Toronto time), and we all (Shannon and Veronik and I) have to admire one another's sleepwear for the last time. Sob.
Slunk into the back of Cat Bordhi's class this morning around 8:30, armed with lots of bookmarks and too few buttons for the attendees. I had been expecting 20 students-- there were more like 55. That was wonderful, to see so many talents serious about writing patterns professionally.
I tried to take as little time away from the official curriculum as possible: a little overview of what we do, and some question-answering. I mentioned that you had to be a member of Patternfish before we could make you a publisher (this is not clear enough in our blurbage; we will change it). Whereupon some earnest soul asked, "Does it cost money to join?" This was such a foreign thought that I just blurted out, "Golly, no! That would be evil," and everyone laughed, and the Patternfish portion of the program wrapped up to applause. Thank you, good Cat and bright students.
So then it was on to stalking the show with the indefatigable Chancellor Shannon, who took it upon herself to be my Sherpa ("your purse," she would correct me). Tenzing Norgay is not given enough credit. Shannon had the laptop in the wheely bag and insisted on toting my briefcase, too, and buying the coffee (she drinks more than I do, which is saying a lot), and taking notes, and writing down all the appointments I blithely make, ensuring that they don't conflict, reminding me of other commitments, suggesting food when I forget to eat, and generally making herself more invaluable by the minute.
People here seem more aware of Patternfish than I thought they would be, and very positively so. It's a welcome shock, but a shock. Probably all bloggers and web-business folk feel like this. You spend such tremendous amounts of time in isolation (in front of your computer) working on something you feel is important that you get too caught up in your own view of it. Then, out in the world, if people like what you do, it's like they're complimenting you on a picture you thought you drew in private.
There were productive meetings galore, and more new ones and follow-ups to come. It was especially nice to talk with designer Sharon Dreifuss (She-Knits), who was exhibiting her beautiful felted bags in the Brown Sheep Company booth, and explaining Patternfish to her. Her eyes grew wider and wider until finally she exclaimed, "There's no downside!" That was a marvellous thing to hear.
"Oh, are you Patternfish?" people ask. Yes I am, I say proudly, and so is Shannon here. But I should have named the site Unbearably Lovely or something: "Yes, of course we're Unbearably Lovely! Can't you tell?"
Yesterday (Thursday) was a travel day, in which Shannon and I made our way from Toronto to San Diego via Newark. The Newark - San Diego flight was delayed by several hours, which was not a problem as we had access to red wine during the delay. Which also led to sleeping during the flight: perfect.
We arrived to find messages from loved ones at home anxious to make sure we had not landed in the Hudson River, as had one of our colleagues from a publisher. She is apparently fine, thank God.
Today (setup day for the trade show) almost half of Toronto was without power during -20C temperatures. We worried about this as we sat outside in balmy weather eating seafood for lunch, and being inconvenienced occasionally by the spray from a nearby fountain.
We saw lots of wonderful people during setup (we are not exhibiting, but help some publishers out). Most startling was Cat Bordhi, who very kindly invited me to speak to her class of budding designers tomorrow morning about marketing your work. Greatly excited about this.
Roommate Veronik Avery was a tremendous good sport when I announced I was going to report on her pyjamas (or similar). "I like to dress well to sleep," says she, with the effortless chic of a true Quebecoise. "I am wearing my cyclamen lace-trimmed V-neck top and yoga pants." She also says she left her sock monkey pyjama bottoms at home. In the spirit of full disclosure, Shannon remarked about her own sleepwear, "large T-shirts are your friend." Hers is tobacco-coloured. My own night costume on this trip, worn leggings and a long thin grey jersey top, might best be described as Amish in spirit. More, as I said before, later.
Chancellor Shannon and I are off to TNNA in San Diego, California later today. TNNA stands for 'The National Needle Arts Association'. It's a trade show where North American needle arts distributors exhibit what's new (in the January case, for spring and summer 2009) to North American retailers. A trip to California is especially welcome right now, since it's about -20 degrees Celsius in Toronto at the moment. The Fahrenheit and Celsius scales meet at around -30 or -33. Special Guest Star Greg calls this kind of temperature 'AFC', for 'Arse-Freezing Cold'. Minister of Technology Phil has been known to say that Canada (at least where we are) has two seasons, "winter and July". This is not strictly true, but it's easy to believe when the weather's like this.
Anyway, lots of our existing publishers (like JCA Crafts, with Reynolds and Artful Yarns; hempforknitting, with Lanaknits Designs; Classic Elite Yarns; Naturally; SWTC, and many others) will be there, along with many other companies who have sworn up and down that they will list their patterns with Patternfish as soon as possible. A lot of independent designers go too, to sign their books or meet the folks for whom they freelance.
In short, just about everyone involved in knitting or crocheting who attends is either a potential publisher or a potential customer, or (in the case of the courageous retailers), a conduit to a LOT of end users. So we are armed with Patternfish.com bookmarks and new Patternfish.com buttons, and intend to strew them liberally about.
Paradoxically, we always run into a lot of wonderful Canadians at these American shows that we don't normally see, like Lucy Neatby and Sally Melville and Mags Kandis and Veronik Avery-- even darling Amy Singer (who LIVES in Toronto and publishes Knitty.com from here) and I don't get together much except for occasions like this.
So the pace of uploading new patterns may slow while we're busy catching up with North American knitterati. But I will try to blog more often to make up for it. Veronik is actually sharing a room with us from Friday on (how did we get so lucky?), so if it's OK with her, I might blog about what kind of pyjamas she wears. Or if she wears pyjamas at all. "Of this," as my friend Alex says, "more later."
Patternfish's formal year end is the calendar year, Dec. 31st. And while we went live June 4, 2008 (also Anderson Cooper of CNN's birthday), for some reason it only occurred to us to start keep official stats as of 1 August. Fatigue and overwork, probably.
So from 1 August through 31 December 2008, here are our stats. Keep in mind we are just a baby-- seven months old, out of nowhere, and these stats represent just five of those months.
We had well over 1,050,000 page views from 126 countries. The top 20 countries for visits are:
1. United States
15. New Zealand
We pause here to admire tiny Luxembourg, who scraped together 18 visits but averaged a whopping 44+ pages for each (this takes almost half an hour at a time, we discovered). Iraq, surely with other things to think about, somehow managed 2 visits; we are touched and moved.
Overall-- this is from 4 June now-- we have sold thousands and thousands of patterns in thousands of successfully-filled orders.
There was the odd glitch. We have a slight tendency to assume that people know more about tech than they do (Phil, Greg, Shannon, and I have all been involved in it as a business for more than two decades each), so sometimes people have to drag us back to reality-- good for everyone who's done it. Once, PayPal had a migraine that affected every one of their merchants; and another time, our patterns got stuck in their delivery system and couldn't get out (but we could take orders!). Those things got fixed quickly.
Other than that, we've had a remarkably good uptime record-- thanks to Minister of Technology Phil, who built a wonderfully sturdy site mostly from scratch, and only occasionally told Julia how things were going to be instead of the other way around. In those case his ideas were always an improvement over whatever she had wanted.
We received wonderful attention from Vogue Knitting (in print) and Knitter's Review (online), and various cutting-edge blogs, podcasts, local newsletters, and LYS's. Toronto's Romni Wools even let us have a whole storefront window on extended loan. Profound thanks to everyone who helped us in every way.
Our first year end. It's been fabulous. We'll check back with more stats by our first birthday. Infinite thanks to our members and publishers in equal measure; they make one another's presence possible, and our business a joy.
We hope everyone had a healthy, happy, safe holiday season, and is welcoming 2009 with an open heart.
Blogging has been nonexistent over the last few weeks. I apologize. My father died after a brief acute illness (at age 75) on New Year's Eve. He led a rich full life and left precious little undone that he wanted to do; and he lived in his own home on his own until 18 days before he died. Few are so lucky. We will all miss him dreadfully. He was an avid cheerleader for Patternfish (having been a lifelong entrepreneur himself) and would have been delighted that December 2008 was in all ways, and despite current economic conditions, our best month ever.
Soon-- more cheerful topics, and there's a lot to be cheerful about... so get ready.